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Image © Lacuna Coil 2001
metal-edged progressive rock
album reviews and exclusive interview
"The ethereal music of Milan-based Lacuna Coil posseses that rare and uncanny ability to lure the listener into a thunderously dark and passionate landscape of soulfulness," writes Loana dP Valencia of Century Media Records. The band's name actually is derived from two Italian words put together and translates to "empty spiral." With metal roots, their sound can be compared to The Gathering, but it has evolved, especially in their latest album Unleashed Memories, to one that is more lush, evocative and technically advanced.
Frontwoman Cristina Scabbia's magnetism rests not only in her seductive appearance, but also in her haunting vocal amalgamation of an Italian Natalie Merchant and Kate Bush. Other band members include Andrea Ferro (male vocals), Cristiano Migliore (guitars), Marco Biazzi (guitars), Marco Coti Zelati (bass guitar) and Cristiano Mozzati (drums and percussion). The band formed in 1996 and released their self-titled EP, produced by Waldemar Sorychta, in 1998.
Our review of the band's four recordings, with the third album incorporating tracks from their previously released HalfLife EP, is joined by our exclusive interview with lead singer Cristina Scabbia.
We asked Cristina about her background. She told us, "There's not so much to say about my past before Lacuna Coil. Musically talking the only things I did are some project of disco and dance music. But I purely did them for money, without giving my image and name. Then I met the other guys of Lacuna and they just asked me to join the band to do some chorus for them. Then we decided to produce the promo tape that made us gain the contract."
We asked Cristina who she finds herself listening to all the time. She told us, "I have several bands that I really love: Depeche Mode, Faith No More, The Police, Messhuggah and too many others! For the same reason I always listen to different bands. Now I'm listening to the last Dimmu Borgir and the last Rammstein."
Cristina told us about how she developed her vocal style. "I started to sing just as an hobby, with friends. To sing is a passion for me and I always learned by my mistakes, as soon as I've never took any kind of lesson for my voice. I thought in the past to have some training with a teacher, but I don't want to turn my voice into something technical and less 'warm'."
We noted that Lacuna Coil's music is actually very varied in its style. We asked Cristina about artists that have influenced the group's sound. She told us, "Basically we're influenced by our feelings, that we transpose into music. If you just consider that Marco Coti Zelati, our bass player and main composer, listen just extreme stuff as Messhuggah, Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad but you cannot even find any influence of them in Lacuna Coil music. We're really influenced by personal experiences."
Lacuna Coil. The first commercial release by Lacuna Coil is a self-titled EP (Century Media (USA) 7901-2, 1998). Comprised of six relatively short tracks, Terrorizer Magazine accurately observed the songwriting as "superb, and its strength soon weakens whatever resistance you may have had after repeated plays." Certainly the most metal-edged of the group's recordings, Cristina's powerful soaring voice and the thickly arranged guitars are immediately striking. Keyboards by Waldemar Sorychta add symphonic texture to the tracks.
The EP opens with "No Need To Explain," with lush guitar arrangements, keyboard textures and soaring female vocal lines. Male vocals are typically metal but sing more than grunt. Cristina's vocal part immediately reminded us of Melissa Blair from Leger de Main in the second track "The Sacred." Glistening and rhythmic guitar and male vocals contribute to the sound. The guitar work during the instrumental bridge is especially notable.
"This Is My Dream" is a gentler and slower—somewhat anthemic—track, balancing male and female vocal parts. Cristina's vocal line has been mixed way up above the lushly arranged instrumentals and multi-tracked during the chorus to add depth to the sound. "Soul Into Hades" continues to build the richness of the band's sound and features shimmering guitar melody silhouettes and strong male vocals contrasting Cristina's lead and backing vocalise.
The everso evocatively sung ballad "Falling" makes its debut on the self-titled EP. A reprise entitled "Falling Again" actually concludes the band's first full length album. Heartfelt emotions soar through Cristina's crystalline lead vocal, sung over a light acoustic style guitar and keyboard arrangement. Spacy atmospheric textures are a preview of sounds that develop later in the band's repertoire. The EP concludes with the instrumental "A Ghost Between Us," a highly varied but lushly arranged track clearly illutrating the virtuosity of the band's guitar players.
Read further reviews, hear soundbites and order the Lacuna Coil self-titled EP from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a cross-country journey, this CD is a must listen!
Cristina told us that before the band took off she used to work in an office during her spare time. She continued, "It is really difficult to tell your boss 'I'll be here for a week and the I'll be away for two months.' That's not professional at all. We're currently very busy with the music and we're just concentrated on that."
In A Reverie. The first full length album (Century Media (USA) 7934-2, 1999) from Lacuna Coil is comprised of eight brand new tracks and a re-arranged reprise of "Falling" from the band's debut recording. Lyrics have been included in the booklet accompanying the compact disc. Rich instrumental and vocal harmonies contribute significantly to the standout symphonic sound that emerges from the very first track, "Circle." Multi-tracked vocals in the chorus blend male and female parts, yet Cristina's voice has once again been mixed way up, right where Musical Discoveries' readers like them best.
We were once again reminded of Leger de Main's Melissa Blair in "Stately Lover" when hearing Cristina's lead vocal part. The thickness of the rhythmic guitar arrangement is offset by almost grunting male vocals and Cristina's soaring vocalise in the song's chorus. "Honeymoon Suite" is more melodic with male and female vocal parts more starkly contrasted. The fast pace of "My Wings" is driven by shimmering guitars and once again Cristina's vocals soar above the thick arrangements and grunting male vocal parts.
The album's standout track is "To Myself I Turned," a multi-tracked Cristina Scabbia vocal experience, blending the gentler sound of "Falling" with slightly heavier metal-edged arrangements. Cristina's vocal work is sensual and evocative, with crystalline tones soaring way above the instrumentals. Guitar work during the instrumental bridge is excellent.
Contrasts within "Cold" are dramatic—male vs female vocals, chorus vs verse, and harmonies vs metal-edged guitar and thunderous double bass drums—and equally stunning. The lead guitar solo in the bridge illustrates the players' virtuousity. Lush vocal harmonies dominate the slower paced "Reverie." The instrumental bridge features highly notable shimmering guitar parts. "Veins of Glass" is performed as a duet with balanced male and female vocals. Lovely harmonies result from lushly arranged multi-tracking of the different parts.
In A Reverie concludes with "Falling Again," a re-arrangement of the track "Falling" from the group's debut EP. Cristina's sensual lead vocal is underscored by a more robust instrumental arrangement blending bright guitars with lush keyboard passages. The new arrangement suits the song quite well and will delight Lacuna Coil's audiences, new and old.
You can find additional reviews, soundbites and order this stunning full length Lacuna Coil album In A Reverie from amazon.com here. Musical Discoveries readers will want to explore this one much further; worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is a must listen!
The photographs at their website and comments from their fans led us to believe that Lacuna Coil must be an incredible band to see on stage. Indeed they are—see our On Stage at The London Astoria review. We asked Cristina about their live performances. She told us, "We're really growing day by day. In the past we were really immature on stage. I've always been really shy and at the very beginning I was just singing, 'protecting' myself with the stand of the microphone! Now we really have fun during our gigs, everyone can feel that there's a relaxed feeling. We're more aggressive and we also learned to take care about the visual part of the gig, with stage clothes and makeup."
After an appearance in the Altheimer Open Air, Lacuna Coil joined forces with Swiss gothic gods Lacrimosa, which earned them even more praise about their passionate and professional shows from fans, critics and fellow musicians. The demand for their music was so great, they released the HalfLife EP (recorded at the Damage Inc. Studio in Ventimiglia, Italy) in 2000 as an offering to their European fans and has been unavailable in the United States since its original issue.
"With high personal expectations of this, their second full length album, Lacuna Coil secluded themselves during their songwriting process until they were thoroughly satisfied with the results," writes Loana dP Valencia.
Cristina told us about the band's writing process. "We usually start from a melody or a riff and we built the music around. As soon as the basic song is ready, we meet each other in the practice room and everybody comes out with ideas and suggestions." She continued, "As soon as we finished the music we start to find the vocal line and at the very and we write the lyric. We've always followed this process. The only exception is the song "Cold Heritage." We started from the vocals."
Unleashed Memories. The second full length album (Century Media (USA) 8060-2, 2001) was released in March 2001; it couples Lacuna Coil's trademarked songwriting skills with thrilling complementary female and male vocal textures and authors another chapter in the band's stunningly emootive and altogether enigmatic musical alchemy, resulting in a singular soul-massaging sound. The fifteen track album includes ten all-new tracks as well as the five from the Halflife EP which are included as bonus tracks.
The group's significant development is evident right from the opening track "Heir Of A Dying Day." Shimmering guitar-based arrangements are perfectly complimented by Cristina's soaring vocal layers and Andrea's contrasting vocal harmonies. Passionately sung male vocals in "To Live Is To Hide" are backed by layers of Cristina's lovely harmonies and vocalise. Roles reverse as the track progresses. Rhythmic percussion and guitar add significant texture to the track.
A lovely ballad-like track entitled "Purify" is one of the album's standout tracks, performed in the style of "To Myself I Turned," and features Cristina's stunning lead vocal. Lovely harmonies in the song's chorus may make this the most accessible Lacuna Coil track to emerge in their repertoire. A fast paced Italian rock track entitled "Senzafine" is another one of the album's standout tracks. Sung both by Cristine and Andrea, supported by symphonic arrangements, the track caught the attention of Musical Discoveries' correspondents from first listen and has been a frequent topic of discussion.
"When A Dead Man Walks" includes both lead and backing vocal parts by both Cristina and Andrea and blends metal with symphonic arrangements. Cristina's vocals are most evocative while Andrea's are sung with a harsher edge. The guitar solo during the instrumental bridge is most notable. The track "1:19" is a relatively fast-paced rocker blending lush instrumentals with equally evocative vocals.
Another standout track from the album is entitled "Cold Heritage." Ballad-like in construction and sensually sung, this track is another stunning example of Cristina Scabbia's vocal virtuousity. The keyboard based progressive rock arrangements in "Distant Sun" illustrate another and very exciting side of Lacuna Coil's development. Shimmering guitars perfectly compliment Cristina's rich and powerfully soaring lead vocal in "A Current Obsession." The final new track on the album is entitled "Wave Of Anguish." Metal-edged and laced with Cristina's lush vocal harmonies, the track moves along at a moderate pace driven by the double bass drum, while time signature changes contributed to the significant interest we developed in the track.
The bonus tracks from the Halflife EP include the vocally "Halflife," "Trance Awake," "Senzafine," "Hyperpast" and "Stars." We were attracted to all five of them immediately. Soaring layers of sweet vocalise in "Halflife" are supported by lush guitar and percussion arrangements and contrasted by traditional metal-style grunting vocals as well. "Trance Awake" is a short introduction of ethnic percussion and vocalise that precedes and blends into the original version of "Senzafine" with the symphonic splendour of a modern progressive rocker.
Dynamic percussion blends with metal-edged guitars in "Hyperpast" while Cristina's lead vocal soars well above the arrangements in the verse contrasted against the grunting male vocal part. The compact disc concludes with "Stars," a gentler rocking tune with especially crisp percussion and a shimmering electric guitar melody. Sweet layers of Cristina's vocals blend with the guitar-based melodies.
Read further reviews of Unleashed Memories, listen to soundbites from it and order the album from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is a must listen!.
We asked Cristina about the internet and how it has influenced the band's musical career. She told us, "The internet now has a big importance. I like to see the sites of the bands I appreciate and is always interesting to be updated about every movement the band does. I don't know if it can really helps to bring new fans to Lacuna coil's music, because usually the people that see our website, already know us. Anyway the internet has never been something that influenced our career in any way. Is just something useful."
Comalies. The first album to emerge from Lacuna Coil since Unleashed Memories is a 13-track collection entitled Comalies (Century Media (USA) CD 8160-2, 2002). From Century Media, "With three full-length albums and two EPs released in a four year span, each offering has furthered the enunciation of the subtle, solemn beauty Lacuna Coil creates. Signifying "empty spiral" in English, the definition betrays the rich versatility of their music.
Comalies maturely exhibits the trademarked gothic overtones and simplistic melancholy of their haunting musical landscape." Comalies moves away from the Cristina Scabbia-dominated vocal harmonies found on Unleashed Memories and moves into a new territory vocally without admonishing the classic Lacuna Coil sound. As the label writes, "Lacuna Coil bring miraculous eloquence to their collision of melody and metal."
So what do Lacuna Coil sound like? Their music is more than richly arranged--it is very thick, full of powerful guitars, strong bass and driving percussion. Lead vocalist Cristina Scabbia's stunning crystalline contributions swirl in the mix, soaring above it at times, and are contrasted by those from male vocalist Andrea Ferro, an excellent singer in his own right. Symphonic and rhythmic keyboard elements work their way into the mix to produce the wall of sound one will instantly recognise as Lacuna Coil's and noone else's. The lineup is completed by "Cristiano Migliore (guitars), Marco Biazzi (guitars), Marco Coti Zelati (bass and keyboards) and Cristiano Mozzati (drums and percussion).
"It is indeed difficult not to get pulled into the dream-like quality of the world Lacuna Coil creates, which floods you with a myriad of heavy and hypnotic sounds. The epic feel of Comalies will quickly lead you to believe that an incredibly personal epiphany is about to happen. Each song contributes to the buildup, encouraging introspection while documenting the sadness that this particular journey uncovers. Upholding the emotive yin/yang tradition of vocal interplay between the dulet tones of Cristina Scabbia and the deliberate vocals of her male singing partner Andrea Ferro, Comalies is another dynamic exploration of Lacuna Coil's soulfully somber and stunningly enigmatic musical alchemy," Century Media writes.
The album is produced once again by Unleashed Memories' Waldemar Sorchta at Woodhouse Studios. Lacuna Coil's metal-edged instrumental power is evident across the album's tracks, they begin full on in "Swamped." Andrea's lead introduces the lyrical content while Cristina's dramatic backing vocal soars in the distance before coming front and centre in the well-produced arrangement. The powerful metal ballad "Heaven's A Lie" features Cristina singing in a lower register while symphonic instrumentals and further vocal harmonies support her soaring towards the upper regions as the male vocal enters the fray.
Cristina's and Andrea's vocals alternate leads in the rocking "Daylight Dancer" whose rhythmically styled keyboards and percussion add tremendous texture to the thickly arranged guitars. Soaring vocalise introduces "Humane," a slower paced—yet equally thickly arranged—tune that will treat the listener to the range of Cristina's heartfelt layered vocals. The upbeat rocking sound of "Self Deception" again features vocal work of the two lead singers with longer alternating sections of their leads. We especially enjoyed Cristina's treatment of the choruses and the vast guitar excursions in the bridges.
A short and light guitar instrumental introduces a gentle crystalline vocal part by Cristina in "Aeon" that precedes the multi-sensory "Tight Rope," a rocking metal edged number of with vast guitar riffs and vocal layers blending the two singers' parts as the album comes into full splendour. Cristina's powerful lead punches through the rich instrumental to carry a soaring melody and leaving rhythmic percussion in her wake. The tempo slows down for the orchestral-style ballad (well about as orchestral as Lacuna Coil gets!) entitled "The Ghost Woman And The Hunter" which is led by Cristina's sensually sung vocal part and layers of her equally sweet supporting harmonies.
"Unspoken" is a classic Lacuna Coil-style gothic-edged track dominated by Cristina's vocals, mixed way up above the symphonic arrangements. With lush vocal harmonies in the chorus and a memorable melody, the track is a certain standout and one that will have the broadest audience appeal. The vocal intensity continues into the soft metal construction of "Entwined," a lovely ballad presenting Cristina's vocal work right up in the fore in the guise of similar-to Madonna but against Lacuna Coil's typically lush instrumental and supporting male vocal arrangements.
"Angel's Punishment" is a progressive metal-edged piece that balances the sweetness of Crisitna's voice with Andrea's grunting style and the instrumental awesomeness of the other band members. With verses dominated by Andrea's vocals, "The Prophet Said" is a powerful metal-edged rocker; it features Cristina's vocals in the dramatic choruses that soar against the thick guitar solo-based bridges. The album concludes with the title track blending the vocal talents of both singers with metal and symphonic arrangements. Short Italian lyrical elements are intertwined with English.
While some may characterise Lacuna Coil's music as heavy metal, the band are clearly on the edge of something else, very symphonic and rhythmically accessible. Instrumentally very strong, listeners will agree that Cristina Scabbia's vocals play an essential part to the band's unique sonic texture. Trust us, this is a tremendous album, clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, it is a must listen!
"Finding a niche in todays musical world is itself a challenge. It is even more difficult to impress critics and fans around the world simultaneously," writes Loana dP Valencia, "In the case of Lacuna Coil, both have been successfully accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. Cristina can siiing, and I mean sing in a way that leaves you changed." This stunning young woman has an incredible voice!
Unleashed Memories and Comalies certainly illustrate the band's significant development since their debut. Lacuna Coil's music is full of lovely female vocals, symphonic arrangements, contrasting metal-edge guitar and male vocals. They are a band worthy of further exploration.
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